Texas is in the College Football Playoff with Quinn Ewers as its quarterback, and after the Longhorns face the Washington Huskies and potentially the Michigan Wolverines or Alabama Crimson Tide, the young passer will have a decision to make about the 2024 NFL Draft.
Does he stay at Texas or bolt for the NFL?
As the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2021 recruiting class, it was always a matter of "when" not "if" with Ewers and the NFL. After transferring from Ohio State to Texas, the super-hyped quarterback has blossomed into a quality college starter as Texas has finally gotten "back."
I've formally completed my draft evaluation on Ewers. Let's decide if he should stay or go before discussing the impact his decision will have on another massive quarterback recruit ... Arch Manning.
Ewers was blessed by the Football Gods -- and his parents -- with a naturally live arm. He's capable of really cranking the velocity from any arm angle and lower-body base. He exudes arm talent. That's not to say he has the world's strongest arm. However, the way he effortlessly flicks the football and it jumps off his hands on, say, a deep out-breaking route from the far hash, is likely the key attribute that led to his No. 1 recruit status a few years ago and the main reason I'm even writing this piece. Ewers has a higher-end NFL arm. There are a select few human beings on Earth with a genuinely impressive arm by NFL standards. Ewers is one of them.
While I won't label him as a creative, ad-libber, Ewers demonstrated a willingness to generate big plays outside of the play structure in his two years as the Texas starter. That's vital in today's NFL.
Mobility-wise, Ewers probably doesn't lean on his legs enough. There are flashes when he tucks it to run and looks like a reasonably fluid athlete with quality speed. He lost over 10 pounds before the 2023 season, and that physical transformation showed itself during the season when Ewers had to evade rushers in the pocket and couldn't find anyone downfield.
Ewers is not an NFL-ready decision-maker. While he occasionally demonstrates the ability to glide through his progressions, far too often he locks onto a target or seemingly makes a choice before the snap and tends not to deviate from it. That leads to the ball being placed in precarious situations with zone defenders being able to read his eyes and close on the football. A major concern right now.
Overall his accuracy leaves a fair amount to be desired, especially down the field. Most of his connections there have come on high-arcing passes that will attract deep safeties at the NFL level. Ewers' ball placement is average at best on throws underneath and at the intermediate level. Many times his targets have to adjust to the football to corral it.
He was hardly pressured in 2023, which did not give him the requisite amount of experience typically needed for a young quarterback to learn how to deal with oncoming pass rushers. By that I mean, it's a combination of mediocre pocket-movement -- it's there, just not great -- nor rapid processing ability to help him decide where to go with the football in times of duress. There was not one "wow" throw while under pressure all season.
Final take on Ewers
At his age -- he doesn't turn 21 until mid-March -- with his very clearly raw passing profile right now, for the betterment of his long-term sustainability at the NFL, I would suggest that Ewers remain at Texas for another season to sharpen the intricacies of playing the quarterback position.
Now, thinking about increasing his chances to have longevity as an NFL starter and the likelihood of being picked in the first round or second round are two completely different things. Yes, it's quite a loaded quarterback class in 2024, but given Ewers' natural talent and being in the spotlight at the University of Texas in the College Football Playoff, he may very well be under consideration to be selected within the first 32 or 64 picks in April. And history suggests just being drafted that early boosts a player's chances at the NFL level.
However, Ewers should also consider the flip side of waiting -- with another year of seasoning under Steve Sarkisian, a former professional coach who of course has vast collegiate success on his resume, the Texas passer could very realistically position himself to be one of the first quarterbacks off the board in the 2025 NFL Draft and develop his skill set to be more prepared for what he'll encounter on a regular basis as a starter in the NFL for years to come.
What it means for Arch Manning
If Ewers decides to return to Texas, that lengthens the waiting game for Manning and all the Texas fans waiting to see him as the Longhorns starter -- man, quite a luxurious position to be in regarding the quarterback for Texas fans, isn't it?
But I don't believe it would automatically precipitate a Manning transfer out of the program.
Firstly, while Arch's uncles Peyton and Eli were both No. 1 overall selections in their respective drafts, this is a family that understands long-term sustainability is more vital than draft selection. Tied to that is the crucial pre-NFL development that Arch should feel great about getting at Texas given Sarkisian's presence in Austin.
Also, Texas joins the mighty SEC in 2024. The already bright spotlight on the Longhorns will intensify next season and beyond. It'll provide all Texas quarterbacks better competition and more opportunities to showcase their talents against the closest thing to NFL-caliber defensive talent in the country. One would have to think the appeal of taking the reins as Texas' full-time starter in 2025, after two years soaking up knowledge from Ewers and Sarkisian in practice and the film room, would best prepare Manning to hit the ground running as the Longhorns starter then and have a lasting positive impact on Manning's entire football career.
Oh, and Texas would be more than willing to accommodate any NIL money Manning would ask for during his stay in Austin. That'd help to make his decision easier, too.